Amidst the abundance of thrilling attractions, sights, sounds and smells that Walt Disney World has to offer, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. The theme parks often draw in large crowds, particularly during peak periods such as holidays or summer. For guests with anxiety, sensory or processing disorders, or even for those who just need a little extra space, a visit to a theme park can be a daunting experience. To help ease some of the stress, we're pleased to share a few sensory break areas that we have found to be very helpful (and needed!) when vacationing at Disney World.
Where to Take a Sensory Break at Disney World
These quiet and secluded spots provide the perfect opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. Oh, and don't froget to consult our Crowd Calendar to help plan your trip so you can hopfully avoid the busiest times of the year! Without any further ado, here's where to take a sensory break at Disney World.
- Baby Care Center — Located near the Crystal Palace restaurant, the Baby Care Center provides a quiet, air-conditioned and comfortable environment for parents and caregivers to care for infants and young children.
- Hub Grass — This grassy area near the castle hub is a nice place to sit, stretch your legs and relax. There's no shade here, so we don't recommend this spot in the heat of the day unless you have a handheld sun umbrella to help shield some of those strong Orlando sun rays.
- Tom Sawyer Island — This island, located across from Frontierland, offers a peaceful and immersive environment to explore. Your tadpoles can blow off steam by wandering through the woods, crossing rope bridges and exploring caves and forts. This area of the park is rarely ever crowded. Just keep in mind that you do need to take a short raft ride in order to get to or from the Island.
- Frontierland Play Area —This shaded play area, situated near the former Splash Mountain attraction (Tiana's Bayou Adventure is coming soon in 2024!), is a great place for children to run around and play. It features a variety of structures to climb on and explore.
- Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe — This shop, located in Liberty Square, offers a patio spot behind the building that is a less traveled area. You'll find a few picnic tables and partial shade under the building's awnings.
- Hall of Presidents — This indoor attraction has a peaceful and air-conditioned lobby. This a wonderful place to take a sensory break at Disney World. Nab a seat on a bench to catch your breath and cool down. Stay to watch an audio-animatronic show about the U.S. presidents or take a few minutes to browse the historical artifacts showcased throughout the lobby. Maybe it's just in our minds, but we always think the AC in this building is extra cold!
- Pirates of the Caribbean — Located in Adventureland, just to the left of this attraction is a courtyard that leads to a gated backstage area. This area is quiet as it's off of the main walking path. You'll find a couple of benches for resting here too.
- The walking path between Storybook Circus and TRON Lightcycle / Run — This path is a quiet walk between these two popular areas of Magic Kingdom. It's a great place to take a break and enjoy the shade underneath the bridge leading to TRON. The space underneath the bridge also seems to create a little wind tunnel. That moving air is always a nice reprieve on those extra muggy Florida days.
- Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station — While not necessarily quiet, this interactive water play area, located in Storybook Circus, is a frogtastic spot for the tadpoles to cool off and have fun splashing around while taking a break from waiting in long lines. Sometimes it's the brutally hot Florida temps that cause meltdowns for kids of all ages. I'm looking at you, mama and papa frogs ... cooling off with a little water can be just what's needed!
- The Seas Pavilion — This pavilion has a peaceful and air-conditioned environment where you can explore marine life exhibits and attractions. While this can be a busy area, watching the sea life exhibits may be calming for those who need a break from the lines. Bruce's Shark World is an interactive play area for the froglets who need space to get their wiggles out.
- Journey to Imagination bathroom area — Tucked back away from the crowds, this bathroom area, is a quiet place to use the facilities and take a break. Keep a lookout! You might happen upon a Pooh Bear sighting. He's been known to frolic in the neighboring field trying to catch butterflies.
- The walking path between Mission: SPACE and Test Track — This path is a spacious walkway with several benches between the two attractions. Some of the benches even have umbrellas! This walkway is off of the beaten path and offers some seclusion from the theme park crowds.
- Liquid Layers Splash Pad — This water play area, located at the entrance to Mission: SPACE, is a novel way for children to cool off and play. Just toss a set of extra clothes in your park bag just in case your kiddos get toadally drenched. You'll even find a set of water misters directly behind the splash pad for those who want to cool off a bit, but not get completely wet.
- Green Landing Family Play Zone — This play area can be located between the Creations merchandise shop and Test Track. It has structures to climb on and explore, adjacent to a seating area complete with tables for parents to grab a seat for a minute (or 10!) :)
- Odyssey Building & Baby Care Center — Here, you'll find an air-conditioned environment to rest and recharge. During most of the EPCOT Festivals, this building is used to house one of the festival's food kitchens and/or merchandise pop-up shops. It can get a bit busy in here, but we think it's worth mentioning because of the large number of tables with chairs available, plus cold AC! Just outside the exit toward the Mexico Pavilion is where you'll find the Baby Care Center and First Aid station.
- EPCOT Festival Play Area — Located just past the Imagination Pavilion as you're headed toward World Showcase, you'll find a garden area complete with a playground. The name and specific activities change with the seasonal festivals, but it's always a nice place to let the kids burn off some extra energy. There's usually a merry-go-round, jungle gym and a slide. Plus, the ground is made of AstroTurf, and there are ample seating areas — a perfect spot for the whole family to take a sensory break at Disney World.
- Canada Pavillion — In front of the Canada Pavilion, Victoria Gardens and the walkway leading to Canada Far and Wide is accompanied by a waterfall, providing a peaceful atmosphere away from the bustling crowds and noise. Although there are no seats or a ton of shade, it still serves as a pleasant retreat. Additionally, you can take advantage of the air-conditioned waiting area while waiting to enter the Canada film.
- United Kingdom Pavilion — Nestled behind the buildings and shops at the United Kingdom Pavilion in EPCOT lies a charming English garden, featuring beautiful flora and a hedge maze. This tranquil and secluded spot offers an escape from the crowds, making it an ideal sensory-friendly place to take a break and give your feet a rest.
- Morocco Pavilion — We love exploring this pavilion! There are lots of areas that provide cool shade and a break from the crowds. One of our all-time favorite spots is the mosaic-filled Fez House. Though seating options are limited, visitors can still enjoy the serene ambiance this little nook provides.
- America Adventure — Similar to the Hall of Presidents, the American Adventure Pavilion offers a spacious air-conditioned waiting area and a show featuring numerous rows of seating. The show's duration is longer than that of the Hall of Presidents, and with fewer crowds, you may have the opportunity to watch multiple showings if you're needing a longer break.
- Baby Care Center — Located near the entrance of the park, you'll find private nursing areas, changing stations and baby supplies for purchase. There's also a seating area with a television that is typically playing Disney films. When a little downtime is needed, this might even be a spot where your little one might take a much-needed power nap.
- Benches & seating around Echo Lake — Even though there's not a ton of shade here, finding a seat on one of the benches is a decent spot to sit and people watch, located near the center of the park. You'll also find a seating area with umbrellas just outside of Dockside Diner.
- Commissary Lane — This street offers a shaded walkway with several benches and seating areas to rest and take a break.
- Grand Avenue — This themed area is a quiet and immersive environment to explore and relax. Lily loves to walk around and point out the details she finds in the building's windows. The area where the Muppet*Vision 3D exits typically stays pretty quiet and also makes for some fun photo opportunities.
- Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge — The center of this alien land can be quite busy and loud. However, at the entrance/exit closest to Toy Story Land, you'll find a few benches scattered around. Depending on the time of day, the tall rock walls even provide some shade.
- Pixar Place — This large open Pixar-themed courtyard is situated around the backside of the Chinese Theatre as you head toward Toy Story Land. This is where you can meet many of your favorite Pixar characters. You'll find some benches in quiet corners to duck into if needed. I love to grab a coffee from the Joffery's Coffee cart or a Num Num cookie from the Neighborhood Bakery and let the kids relax before we head into the exciting (but very stimulating) Toy Story Land.
- The exit of Tower of Terror — Just outside the merchandise shop exit, you'll be greeted by a Joffery's Coffee cart and a quiet courtyard. During certain times of the day, the Tower of Terror building blocks the sun and provides a shady oasis. There are several benches in this area and it tends to be a more relaxed environment.
- Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy — This attraction is located behind Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and is an area of the park that is rarely crowded. Tadpoles who need a break from the crowds will appreciate the spacious area to stretch their legs and take photos with the character statues from the Disney Cars movies.
- The Oasis — This area is located at the entrance of Animal Kingdom and provides a peaceful walk through lush vegetation, waterfalls and streams. It's a great place to take a break, especially later in the day when many of the morning entry crowds have died down. You'll also find a rock wall that creates a little cave. This is perfect if you're looking to duck out of the sun for a minute or two.
- Maharajah Jungle Trek & Gorilla Falls Trail — These two attractions take you through serene and shaded walking trails with beautiful landscaping and water features. You'll see animals such as tigers, fruit bats, birds, gorillas and more along the way. Even though the animal trails at Disney's Animal Kingdom are considered an attraction, they are usually not as busy or crowded as the rides. The vegetation and animal exhibit buildings also provide shade and a bit of AC.
- Upcountry Landing — Across from the Feathered Friends in Flight! Theatre is a covered pavilion that offers seating with tables and chairs. This pavilion sits right along the Discovery River. It's a great spot to take a breather and enjoy amazing views of the Tree of Life and the character flotillas.
- The Tree of Life — The Tree of Life is the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom and along the base of the tree, it offers a peaceful area to sit and relax. There are trails with benches and shaded areas around the tree where you can take a break and enjoy the scenery. The views of the Tree of Life are pretty incredible. I like asking the kids to find and name the animals that they see carved into the tree.
- Conservation Station — Conservation Station is an indoor exhibit found at Rafiki's Planet Watch that features a variety of interactive exhibits and displays about animal conservation. It's a quiet and air-conditioned area to take a break from the heat and crowds.
- Rafiki's Planet Watch — To get to Rafiki's Planet Watch, you'll take a train through a serene and peaceful landscape. Once you arrive, you can explore exhibits about animal care and conservation, as well as visit with animals such as goats and sheep. Most children enjoy a train ride and this area of the park is rarely very crowded.
- Discovery Island Trails — These walking trails take you through a calming environment with waterfalls, streams and a variety of animals such as flamingos, kangaroos and lemurs.
- Finding Nemo: The Big Blue ... and Beyond! — Just outside and to the right of the theatre entrance you'll find a restroom area that is tucked away from the crowds. There's an abundance of trees providing a cool escape from the sun. You'll also find water fountains and stairs which make for a nice place to sit and catch your breath before heading off to your next adventure in the day.
There you have it! We've rounded up our favorite spots to take a sensory break at Disney World. Disney World can be an overwhelming experience for just about anyone, but particularly for individuals with sensory or processing disorders. Fortunately, the Disney parks have areas that provide several sensory break locations to help visitors recharge and take a break from the crowds, noise and stimulation. Don't hesitate to take a sensory break and recharge before jumping back into the magical world of Disney! You and your crew will be better off for it!